World Cup 2006 Features
We didn't deserve that
By Rafael Nadal, exclusive for dpa Jun 28, 2006, 23:24 GMT
Rafael Nadal of Spain in action against Alex Bogdanovic of Great Britain during their first round match of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, Tuesday 27 June 2006. EPA/GERRY PENNY
London - This is my last column on the World Cup Germany and I can only start by saying that Spain had its usual bad luck. In South Korea, excuse me for saying it, we were robbed. In the last European Championship two years ago we lost through a penalty in the last minutes of the game. And yesterday! A game with a foul against Puyol which the referee did not award, a goal against us in the last five minutes which finally knocked us out of the World Cup. I don't believe we deserved all this.
Still, France played well, showed a lot of presence on the field and were in control throughout, without doing anything fantastic.
As for us, I don't believe we played poorly. We started and finished well, but never managed to make an impression.
I can't really comment on the first half as I was in the middle of my game in Wimbledon. I had just made it back to the dressing room when (David) Villa scored. I jumped up and down, shouted and was extremely happy. I saw that we were on the right track.
Being one goal up in a game like this, things looked well. France needed to attack and we had to defend. However, I believe that the equalizer did a lot of damage and affected us in our game plan for the second half, where I felt the coach had in mind the sort of tactics which we could only employ in the last five minutes.
In the second half, Spain lost the speed and power of their first games. But we were playing against France, which is a great team. The French marked the spaces well and when the ball went forward, there was always an opponent to break down the attack. Watching on television, I never saw any buildup by the Spanish team towards goal except for an isolated move by Joaquin.
I imagine the team's return home will be sad and painful. I felt very bad after the game and it was a great disappointment for me. With the good image that we had generated during the group rounds it should not have happened. But that's sport. Luck, which personally I don't much believe in, sometimes works against us. I think you have to search for luck and perhaps it was France who looked for it harder.
Anyway, there is hope for this team, which is young and has years in front of it which will surely be filled with glory. Without chancing my hand, the next European Championship is a possibility. In two years we will have the same line-up. We have to keep faith in this team alive, a team which has provided us some good moments of entertaining football.
Now that Spain is out of the running, all that remains is to watch how the other teams progress. Yesterday I watched Brazil beat Ghana but don't really know how it happened, the way they played. The result did not reflect the run of play. Ghana deserved more.
Italy - Their usual selves. They are now in the quarter-finals against Ukraine with a good chance of progressing to the semis. I don't like their game much but I always said they were a team to reckoned with.
Germany - They are proving to be one of the top favourites. Friday is the big clash with Argentina, but I can't tell who is the favourite here.
England are not playing great football. They haven't scored many goals and each game they have had to fight for a result. But they are in the quarter-finals against Portugal, who were affected by the game against Holland, especially physically. It should be an even game.
Brazil versus France. This should be another cracker. But I see Brazil having difficulties, especially if France play with the same confidence as in their previous game. Brazil has outstanding individual players, but this is where it could become complicated for them. France is a team which is strong in all positions, with a lot of experience, as we saw. It won't be easy for either to score goals. It will be an interesting game whatever happens.
I don't want to finish this column without sending my warmest and most heartfelt greetings to all the players and the trainer of the Spanish team. Keep your spirits up.
(Rafael Nadal, talking exclusively to dpa)© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur